Arts & Life

Arts and lifestyle coverage from around the globe and Illinois.

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Health, cultural assimilation and language are some of the top concerns on the minds of a group of Latino parents, social media influencers and regular contributors to Tell Me More. Health was something first lady Michelle Obama highlighted in July, when she addressed the National Council of La Raza, the nation's leading Hispanic civil rights organization.

Nicholson Baker has become a sort of poet of the particular and the peculiar. His books are filled with people who focus minutely on what captivates them – in other words, obsessives. A positive way of looking at obsession is as passion taken to an extreme. The danger, of course, is that the object of one person's intense fascination — such as the broken shoelaces in his unforgettable first novel, The Mezzanine, or the disquisitions on Debussy, dance music, and drones in his latest, Traveling Sprinkler — may spell another's total snore.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

I approached this review with a little bit of dread. How do you write about the iconic novelist Thomas Pynchon, whose books are strange and difficult things, and whose die-hard readers gather online to wax poetic, and use words like Pynchonian, Pynchonalia and Pynchonesque? They are just so into him, and often so articulate about their love. If you read the thoughtful and detailed writing by Pynchon devotees, they make a very persuasive case.

On July 18, 1863, the Union Army's famed 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry — a black military unit — made a desperate assault on Confederate forces at Fort Wagner near Charleston, S.C. In the end, they were unsuccessful and lost almost half of their forces. Escaped slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman bore elegiac eyewitness to the terrible day: "We saw the lightning and that was the guns," she said later.

The French novelist Marcel Proust immortalized the connection between food and memory when the narrator of his novel Remembrances of Things Past bit into a madeleine and was transported to thoughts of his childhood.

But what if that madeleine were poisoned, so to speak?

That is the question underlying Russian American writer Anya von Bremzen's new memoir, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. Though it contains recipes, this is not a cookbook but rather, a history of a family and of Soviet Russia.

Thanks to donations from the community, the Hoogland Center for the Arts in 2012 dodged foreclosure and landed on firmer financial ground.  

That means the staff can now plan longer term.  Executive Director Gus Gordon says he's now selling full season ticket packages for the very first time.

The new documentary Muscle Shoals recalls how interracial harmony in tumultuous times made possible a new kind of music. Leading African-American artists traveled to North Alabama — not exactly a place they thought they'd be welcome in the civil rights era — to jam with an all-white crew of session players. In little rooms near the wide Tennessee River, they perfected soul and anticipated Southern rock.

Dynamic Patterns Theatre/Donna Lounsberry

Matthew Dearing says theatregoers don't need to study Quantum Electrodynamics in order to enjoy a show about the man behind the theory.

Dearing is directing QED: A Play, which stars Decatur actor Al Scheider as theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.  Feynman helped develop the atomic bomb.  He also gained notoriety in the 1980s as a member of the panel that investigated NASA after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Our September edition of Heavy Rotation features an African legend, an indie-folk orchestra from Portland, and a French band ready to catch on in America. But first, our panelists:

  • David Dye, host of WXPN's World Cafe
  • Anne Litt, a host on KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Kevin Cole, program director at KEXP in Seattle

Plan For Ebert Statue Unveiled

Sep 10, 2013
Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Filmgoers attend Roger Ebert’s 16th annual film festival in Champaign next spring, they’ll be able to pose with the famous Urbana native.

A fundraiser campaign aims to build a life-size sculpture of Ebert, and unveil it as part of the festival in late April, outside the Virginia Theatre.  The bronze tribute to the late Urbana native and longtime Chicago Sun-Times critic places him in the middle of three theater seats, giving the trademark ‘thumbs up.’

About 125-thousand dollars is needed to build the sculpture.   

David Landis

Rosie Flores brings her rockabilly style to the Hoogland Center for the Arts Saturday night.  She and Marti Brom will be on stage in the next Bedrock 66 Live music event.  This show will be a tribute to Janis Martin, also known as the "Female Elvis."

WUIS' Sean Burns interviewed Flores about her music background and the latest project:

The show begins at 8 p.m. Saturday and tickets are available.

https://www.facebook.com/springfieldmuni

Audiences at The Muni shouldn't worry about being presented with a watered-down version of RENT.  

Director Mac Warren says he's "staying true" to a show that some theaters edit for language and content.  

RENT's themes, some unabashedly adult, are arguably just as relevant as they were in the mid-90s when the show debuted in New York.

Actors Scott Lecocq and Jeremy Goeckner joined the show's director on Illinois Edition to share their take on a show they say has "finally come home" to the Springfield Muni:

David Landis

Rosie Flores started a Kickstarter project in 2011 to record, "The Female Elvis," Janis Martin.  Martin died shortly after the sessions.  Flores completed the project and has now released the recording.  Flores has partnered with Marti Brom in a rockabilly tribute to Martin.  They will play WUIS' Bedrock 66 Live Saturday, September 7 at 8 p.m.  

Tickets are available at 217-523-2787 or purchase them online from the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

Watch Flores Kickstarter appeal video below for some background on Martin:

http://werticocainandgray.wordpress.com

Combining audio and visual effects, three Illinois musicians have joined up to create an act that defies conventional genres.

The trio plays a host of electronic and acoustic instruments - everything from saxophone, to cello, to the iPad.

The group recently released an album that is 100% improvised, as well as a DVD of those performances. They call their production, "Sound Portraits".

The three will be performing live again on August 31 as part of the Chicago Jazz Festival.

Springfield Art Association

Those everyday items that have a story to tell are the focus of a new Springfield Art Association exhibit called "Hidden In Plain Sight: The Material World of Early Springfield."  It will explore the art, architecture and decorative arts of antebellum Springfield. 

It opens August 31 and runs through October 5.  The public is invited to the opening and to visit the gallery at 700 North 4th Street during normal business hours. 

A free lecture series each Thursday at 7 p.m. in September.

Donna Lounsberry/Hoogland Center for the Arts

The Hoogland Center for the Arts starts its fall lineup of performances with the popular musical Gypsy.

The Hoogland's executive director, Gus Gordon, is also directing this production.

Gordon and leading lady Devin Dinora joined us on Illinois Edition to talk about the show they're calling the most ambitious of 2013:

New Orleans' based band The Iguanas make their way into Springfield Saturday to play Donnie's Homespun

Our Sean Burns, host of the Sangamon Valley Roots Revival on WUIS, profiles the American group, which has been touring and putting out albums for two decades.

Some rusty, faded fire hydrants in Hannibal, Missouri are getting creative touch-ups.

Julie Rolsen owns a gift shop in the Mississippi River town and also runs a bed and breakfast.  This spring, city leaders granted Rolsen permission to launch the "Hannibal Hydrant Project".

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, the director of the Theatre Department at University of Illinois Springfield, joins WUIS to tell us about the upcoming season: 

CLICK HERE for more information about the upcoming theater season at UIS as well as info on how to audition or become part of the productions.

Most people are probably familiar with the story of 'Little Women', a novel by  Louisa May Alcott about four sisters living during the Civil War and their quests to find meaning in life and true love. What you might not know is that it's been made into a musical. You can see a local production of that this weekend at the Theatre in the Park in New Salem.

We recently spoke with three men who are part of the production; Austin Dambacher who plays Professor Bhear, Rhett Warner who plays Laurie, and Will Barnhart, the director: 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Executive director of The Legacy, Scott Richardson, and Patrick Russell, associate director joined us to talk about the eclectic upcoming season through the rest of the year and into January. Shows include a Marx Brothers inspired musical with local performers, acrobatic cats, a metal Christmas show complete with lasers and other special effects, a returning musical about a transgender rock singer... and more: 

Head-East.com

The band Head East grew out of central and southern Illinois and made it's way to a major label.  In 1974, Head East recorded Flat As A Pancake at Golden Voice Studios in South Pekin.  They released it on their own label, sold it at shows and the notoriety that followed got them a record deal.  From the highs of playing sold out arenas in the 70's to the end of the original lineup, Head East has remained.

What do an aging folk singer, a Michael Jackson impersonator, and an improv comedy group from Chicago have in common? Well, they'll all be making their way to Decatur in coming months. The Kirkland Fine Arts Center recently announced the lineup for its 2013/2014 performing arts series. We recently spoke with director of the center, Jan Traughber, about it: 

CLICK HERE for more information on the coming lineup at the performance venue on the Millikin University campus in Decatur.

The musical Peter Pan is likely one most folks are familiar with. This weekend you can see a live version of it at Springfield's outdoor theater, The Muni. Anna Bussing who plays Peter Pan, co-director Gil Opferman, and Jim Dahlquist who plays Smee recently joined us in studio to talk about the production:

CLICK HERE for more information about Peter Pan, which opens tonight. All performances begin at 8pm and run August 2-4 & 7-11.

'Sacrosanct: A Collaborative Soul Signature'  features the art of Amanda Grieve and Thom Whalen. The area artists say they usually show their work out of town - but they've come together to locally feature artwork based on their relationships with family and religion. Both were raised by artists and in the Catholic faith. Whalen and Grieve recently joined us in the studio to tell us more about their exhibit and their backgrounds:

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Michael Mayosky's art is hard to miss if you live in Springfield. If you've ever been to Knight's Action Park - you've seen his aquatic landscapes stretching over the buildings. On Macarthur Boulevard, his more "trippy" murals adorn head-shop Penny Lane. And now, for his 109th Abraham Lincoln painting, he's going larger than life - much larger. But Mayosky's relative fame as a local professional artist has brought its challenges…

Boon live in the NPR Illinois Suggs Performance Studio.
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Alt-rock band Boon consists of members Aaron Stallone on drums, Matt Natale on bass, and Johnny Draper on vocals and guitar. They joined us recently in the Suggs Performance Studio to share a few tunes and tells us a bit about their music:

CLICK HERE for more tunes and info about boon.

An event featuring art, music, and kids activities tomorrow (Saturday 7/26) will highlight the need for support of the arts from the community. The Prairie Art Alliance's Gallery II, located in Springfield's Old State Capitol Plaza, will have art on display and right outside musicians will perform. Rachel Otwell recently spoke with planners of the event, musician Chris Maxey and Prairie Art Alliance interim executive director Jennifer Snopko:

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